Matthew Steeples suggests that ‘Kajaki’ is a film that all politicians should be made to see
Kajaki is a film so raw that the Ministry of Defence did not back it. Made in Jordan, with the support of that country’s royal family, it is not a Hollywood blockbuster given its limited budget but nor is it a documentary. This, in fact, is a film that shows the true horrors of war in a gritty fashion and without the sanitisation generally found.
Given 5/5 by the Daily Mail’s Brian Viner and 4/5 by The Telegraph’s Tim Robey, Kajaki tells the true story of a handful of British soldiers on routine patrol close to the Kajaki Dam in Helmand province. When one man, Lance Corporal ‘Stu’ Hale (Benjamin O’Mahoney), triggers a landmine that takes off the bottom of his right leg, a series of gruesome events follow and director Paul Katis – in his debut film – chronicles this in a way that highlights the horrific realities of war.
Kajaki is a film so tense that it does not need music. It focuses on courage and selflessness and it shows the real enemy of the troops turns out be ignorance and incompetence. That the right batteries haven’t been supplied for their radios and that the RAF send in a Chinook helicopter that starts the minefield vibrating echoes the kind of story told by such people as Graham Lee in his 2012 account of his time in Afghanistan, Fighting Season: Tales of a British Officer in Afghanistan.
If it weren’t based on reality, Kajaki would indeed be a black comedy. Elements of humour are injected as the army medic, Lance Corporal Paul “Tug” Hartley (Mark Stanley, Grenn in Game of Thrones), does all he can to keep the spirits of the menu up as the wait for rescue goes on and on. One, it turns out, shares a name with Coronation Street’s Ken Barlow and another recounts the tale of his parents not remembering his eighth birthday.
Bizarrely Kajaki – which came to fruition with the backing of the Royal British Legion and the support of such people as the immensely talented Alexa Jago as executive producer – is also a film that has united as comrades the unlikely duo of Jeremy Clarkson and Piers Morgan. This pair, who normally revel in a mutual self-loathing, both took to Twitter on Friday to urge their following to use the #ForYourMates hashtag to spread the word about the film. Meanwhile, one of the actual veterans, Paul Hartley, told Sky News’ ‘Entertainment Week’ that he was “exceptionally” pleased with the film and commented:
“Overall I think the film is great for the guys who were there, I think it will give a bit of closure on the incident”.
“We’ve all our own opinions on what happened that day and I think the film has done well to combine all our stories and answer some of the questions and eradicate some of the demons that the guys have from that experience”.
Kajaki is a film that all politicians should be made to see. It might make them realise the reality of war and it might make them see that there is no sense in going into such places as Afghanistan. Here is a history lesson that is worth learning.
Out now in Vue cinemas nationwide. 15, 108 minutes. @kajakimovie.
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